Real Estate News

Fall Project: Get Ready to Lower Your Heating Bill

2015-10-12 06:32:00

Filed under: Home Improvement

ShutterstockCaulking around windows can help prevent cold outside air from entering your home, and keep the warm air inside.

By Teresa Mears

It's officially fall, which means winter is not far behind. The good news is that winter weather in much of the country is expected to be milder than last year's frigid conditions, and heating costs are also projected to be lower, according to a report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. But the cost of heating one's home still is likely to be a considerable expense in most parts of the country.

Heating is expensive enough already, so you don't want to pay for heat that escapes out windows, doors and cracks instead of staying inside to keep you warm.

"A lot of time we're generating energy that we're sending out into the air," says Marianne Cusato, the housing advisor for and an associate professional specialist at the University of Notre Dame School of Architecture.

Fall is an ideal time to make repairs that will make your home more energy efficient, both saving you money and keeping you warmer. Even if you can't afford major repairs such as a new furnace or new windows, there are small things you can do to save big bucks on heating costs -- and you can handle most of them yourself.

"Homes can lose heat in a lot of different areas," says Anne Reagan, editor-in-chief of "I think that there's a lot of things that can be fixed in someone's home."

Here are 13 hacks to winterize your home while also trimming your heating bill.

Caulk around windows. Warm air can escape and cold air can enter your house if the area around your windows has cracks. Caulking needs to be replaced periodically, and you should check every fall for holes that need to be patched, as well as holes anywhere outside your house. "You want to make sure your [home's] envelope is secure," Cusato says.

Replace weatherstripping around doors. If you can see light around the edges of your doors, you need new weatherstripping. "A small weatherstripping costs you five or six dollars, and it will save you hundreds of dollars in electrical bills," says J.B. Sassano, president of the Mr. Handyman franchise company.

Close up your fireplace. Make sure your flue closes all the way, and check whether you can feel air coming in when it's closed. Glass doors around your fireplace opening are another way to keep warm air in and cold air out of your house.

Put up storm windows and doors. If you have older windows and doors, adding storm windows and doors can help considerably. Window insulation film is another option to provide a layer of protection. "It really insulates the window," Sassano says.

Add heavy drapes and rugs. Changing light summer drapes for heavy winter drapes was common in earlier times, and it's still helpful, Reagan says. Drapes can keep the room warmer, while putting down rugs provides a layer of insulation above the floor.

Improve your insulation. Insulation deteriorates over time, so you may want to add more material in your attic. Other places to add insulation are in crawl spaces and exposed areas of decks. Sassano also recommends creating a false ceiling in unfinished basements and insulating between that ceiling and the living area. An insulating cover over your attic opening also helps trap in the heat.

Cover your water heater. You can buy a water heater blanket for around $20 at the hardware store that will keep the tank from losing heat as quickly, saving you money on your heating bill.

Get an energy audit. Many utility companies will provide a free energy audit and give you suggestions on improvements you can make to your home. You can also pay for a more extensive energy audit. "They'll look at all the places you're losing energy," Cusato says.

Change your furnace filters. If the filters are dirty, your furnace has to work harder. In most homes, filters should be changed monthly in the heating season. You should also have your furnace serviced periodically to make sure it is working properly. "It's easy to overlook but it can mean your system isn't working efficiently," Cusato says.

Get a programmable thermostat. The newest thermostats can learn your family's habits and set themselves to keep the house cooler when no one is there and warmer when the home is occupied. You can also purchase a more basic programmable thermostat. Prices vary considerably, depending on how sophisticated you want your thermostat to be.

Lower your water heater temperature. You can lower it from 140 degrees to 120 with no ill effect, Cusato says. And 120 degrees is the temperature recommended by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Replace less efficient windows and doors. Adding double-pane or triple-pane windows, insulated doors and insulated garage doors will significantly improve the energy efficiency of your home.

Lower the thermostat. It's actually more comfortable to sleep in a colder home, and you can always add more blankets. When you're awake, wear a sweater or sweatshirt to stay comfortable with a lower thermostat setting.

 Permalink | Email this | Comments


Floods, Crimes and Disasters: Is Your Home in a Danger Zone?

2015-10-07 06:44:00

Filed under: News, Buying
AFP/Getty ImagesA local resident in Charleston, S.C., surveys the water surrounding a home during the October floods.

By Blake Miller

With the recent news of catastrophic flooding in South Carolina to other stories of homes blowing up because of broken gas lines or vanishing into a massive sinkhole, you might be ready to Google your address to find out if your little abode is all that safe where it is.

"A lot of property owners wait until it's too late [to figure out if their home is in a safe location]," says Peter Di Natale, president of Peter Di Natale & Associates Inc., a general contracting and construction management firm in Cold Spring, N.Y. "You have to think top to bottom, from the roof to the basement." (And don't overlook these neighborhood details, either.)

Here are the top ways to ensure your new home is out of the danger zone.

Check the Flood Map

In addition to the all-important flood zone map, which your real estate agent can provide, "keep in mind that flooding from storms or water main breaks will hit homes the hardest that are on a ground pitch angled downhill," says Di Natale. "Check how level the ground is. It's not difficult to have the dirt and grass regraded so it slopes gently away from the house towards the yard instead of into the house. You can imagine how preferable that would be to a flooded basement or first floor of a home."

Check the Crime Rates

"I know it sounds silly and maybe too simple. However, knocking on the neighbors' door is sometimes like opening the floodgates to information," says Justin Udy, a real estate agent in Midvale, Utah. "Ask about the property, the neighborhood, and any issues they are aware of. Typically, neighbors are an open book and love to talk about their area, the good and the bad." Including crime.

Not feeling chatty? Check out Trulia's maps, which feature neighborhood guides that identify high-crime areas as well as flood plains and natural disaster probabilities. Adds Heather Leikin, a real estate agent in Los Angeles: "Consider the type of crimes [as in burglaries versus DUIs], rather than if there is crime."

Check the Trees

Think that towering oak tree won't cause your home any harm? Think again. "I once had a tree fall on a gutter that created Niagara Falls down the side of the house when the next rain came," says Di Natale. How do you know if your trees could be a problem? Call in an arborist or tree specialist, who oftentimes will provide free consultations to homeowners and potential homebuyers.

Check for Gas

Not if the home has natural gas but, rather, where those dang gas lines are actually buried, says Leikin. "If you are concerned about proximity of the larger gas lines to your house, contact your local gas utility," she adds. "There should be a map of your area that shows how close major gas lines are to your new home.

"This is especially important to know after numerous pipeline explosions in the United States." Enough said.

Check for Natural Disasters

Californians aren't the only ones who need to know if they live in an earthquake-prone area. To be in the know about just which natural disasters -- tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, etc. -- could wreak havoc on your potential new home, Patty Brockman, a real estate agent in Portland, Oregon, suggests checking with your insurance carrier. "Have them investigate whether or not the property is in a flood plain, earthquake, or slide area," she says. "It's always best to seek out the experts, rather than rely on someone's opinion."

Check the Sellers' Disclosure Carefully

Legally, sellers have to disclose if their home's basement, for example, tends to flood. Which means that sellers' disclosure form can be a valuable tool in detecting what hazards may await you when you purchase your new home.

"If there is any area of question, consider going back and asking more questions," suggests Udy. "It's routine for me to ask, 'Tell me more about that' or 'What did you mean when you mentioned XYZ?'"

Check with the City

Some of the most valuable information about your home's danger probability can be found with the city government. "I always recommend owners be involved with their city planning office and code enforcement," says Udy. "Depending on the size of your city, a seasoned planner or code enforcement officer may be able to tell you what projects people are doing, what is in process, and things to be aware of [such as planned neighborhoods, which could cause potential flooding to your backyard]."

 Permalink | Email this | Comments


3 Home Improvements You Can Make With $5,000

2015-10-06 08:31:00

Filed under: Design, How To

Courtesy of White Buffalo Styling Co.via Zillow

By Lindsay Jackman

For a renovation budget of $5,000, you can add some serious functional upgrades to your home. Kitchens and bathrooms are smart places to focus your dollars. They are hardworking rooms that you'll enjoy using, but also among the first rooms a future buyer will want to see.

Another practical way to increase the function of your house is by adding living space. While you can't do an actual home addition for $5,000, you can create a functional outdoor living space that increases your usable square footage.

Here's how to complete each of these three renovation projects on a $5,000 budget. (If you have a little more to spend, consider what you can do for $10,000.)

Upgrading to Custom Kitchen Cabinets
​Creating a more functional and beautiful kitchen is a win-win, and one way to achieve that goal is by upgrading your cabinetry. For this price-point, you could design cabinets that work for you, the way you use your kitchen, and your kitchen layout. Custom cabinets allow you to maximize storage for the space that you have.

Installing a Tile Shower

Nothing says luxury in a master bath like a standing tiled shower with glass door. For $5,000, you could remove the standard bath insert and surround and put in a custom tiled shower. For additional function, tile in a corner bench and soap shelf. You'll feel like you're visiting a luxurious resort in the comfort of your own home.

Courtesy of White Buffalo Styling Co.via Zillow

Create an Outdoor Living Area

Boosting square footage is a great idea for you and future buyers, but additions are expensive. Adding a fabulous outdoor patio can drastically increase your usable living space for a much smaller price tag.

The options for patio material include chipped granite, pavers or flagstone. Adding mulch in beds surrounding the patio will really make a visual statement, and keep the patio from looking like it's floating in your backyard.

Courtesy of White Buffalo Styling Co.via Zillow

Build a pergola or covered seating area to create more visual appeal and boost the space's usability. You can hang lights or fans overhead in the structure -- and if it's covered, you'll have a spot to escape the weather.

While this upgrade benefits you, it's also a big selling feature. Most homes don't have an attractive outdoor living area, and adding this amenity will make buyers flock to your listing.

Any of these three updates will make you love your home in a whole new way. You can't go wrong with improving kitchen storage, upgrading your current bathroom, or increasing your potential living space by taking to the outdoors.

See more home design inspiration.

 Read | Permalink | Email this | Comments


Money Maven Suze Orman Selling Apartment at Plaza

2015-10-02 08:54:00

Filed under: Celebrity Homes, Investing, Selling
Corcoran via StreetEasy/ZillowThe Plaza Hotel at 1 Central Park South features residences in addition to a hotel known for its old-fashioned luxury.

By Melissa Allison

Financial maven Suze Orman is set to turn a tidy profit on a small apartment in the Plaza, New York's famed hotel and residences.

Orman is asking $4.5 million for the 1,279-square-foot unit, as Curbed New York first reported.

Orman got a deal on it in 2007, when she paid $3.68 million. A similar apartment with Central Park views was going for $3 million more, the talk-show host told The Wall Street Journal.

ShutterstockSuze Orman

Real estate investing isn't her thing, Orman said, adding that she pays cash for homes. "If I can't write a check for it, I can't afford it," she said.

Like a grown-up version of Eloise, the 1950s children's book character who lived in the Plaza, Orman enjoys the apartment's location and perks, including room service, housekeeping and an upscale food court, she told the Journal.

She and her wife, Kathy Travis, considered the white-gloved butlers a little over the top, and their unit needed a year-long remodel to pull it out of Motel 6 territory.

Now it's a luxurious one-bedroom, two-bath apartment with herringbone hardwood floors, silver-leaf crown moldings and a chandelier in the bedroom. It comes furnished with designer furniture and window treatments.

Living at the Plaza also means in-building access to some of New York's storied hangouts, including the Palm Court, the Oak Room, the Champagne Bar, the Rose Club, and the Grand Ballroom.

The listing agent is Corcoran's Charlie Attias.

 Permalink | Email this | Comments


How to Lose the Bidding War But Still Get the House

2015-10-01 06:01:00

Filed under: Buying

By Michael Corbett

If your offer is rejected, a little patience (and a backup offer) may pay off.

When there are more buyers than available homes in your area, real estate competition can get fierce. Chances are, not every offer you make will win the deal. But don't despair. It's possible to turn that next rejection into your dream home.

Here are seven reasons why your initial unaccepted offer may eventually close the deal.

1. A backup offer is a secret weapon.

You made your best offer, but it wasn't strong enough to secure the home -- maybe your competition offered more money, or their terms were slightly better. All is not lost. Ask the seller to accept your offer as a backup offer. There is no cost to you, yet you are in line to get the property if the deal goes sour.

2. It's all so close, they can taste it.

Once a seller has an offer and it's progressing, they are already psychologically moving from their home. They're picturing closing day and the moving trucks in the driveway. If the deal abruptly comes to a screeching halt, the seller is much more willing to move forward with a backup offer just to keep that momentum going.

3. Your chances improve after the inspection.

I have been successful in backup situations where an inspection has uncovered more issues than the first buyer wants to deal with and the buyer walks away from the house. The good news for you is that those issues won't go away. The seller may realize he or she can no longer play hardball and be more willing to accept your offer, rather than lose the deal a second time.

4. We're in an era of tougher loan qualifications.

As loan qualifications become tighter and more scrutinized, some homebuyers may not qualify and will have to back out of the deal. In this situation, you have the advantage of jumping in to save the day.

5. Set a 30-day time limit.

The longer the current transaction takes, the greater the chance the two parties are struggling to come to an agreement. Set an expiration date of 30 days for your backup offer. If the two parties are unable to close the deal, it may force the seller to settle for the next best thing before it's too late.

6. Get first right of refusal.

Ask for a first-right-of-refusal clause in your backup offer. In this case, you're not bound to purchase the property, but you're first in line if the other deal falls through.

7. Get the terms of the backup in writing.

Once the seller agrees to accept your offer as backup, get a fully executed detailed agreement, in writing. Be sure they are obligated to sell to you within a certain period at the agreed-upon terms if the property becomes available.

Here's one more bonus for the backup buyer.

Legally, the sellers have to disclose any problems the first-position buyers uncovered, even ones that made them bolt. As a result, you'll know the property's flaws in advance, saving you time and money on your own inspections.

- Permalink | Email this | Comments


Mortgage Rates Remain Low as September Ends

2015-09-30 08:43:00

Filed under: Buying, Financing, Refinancing
ZillowThe weekly mortgage rate chart illustrates the average 30-year fixed interest rate in six-hour intervals.

By Lauren Braun

Mortgage rates for 30-year fixed loans remained low this week, with the rate borrowers were quoted on Zillow Mortgages at 3.73 percent, unchanged from last week.

The 30-year fixed mortgage rate rose on Friday, then hovered around 3.76 percent before falling to Tuesday's rate.

"Mortgage rates are almost unchanged from last week despite some volatility in response to mixed messages from incoming data and Fed commentary," said Erin Lantz, vice president of mortgages at Zillow. "Despite a number of important speeches and data releases this week, expectations for the first Fed rate hike are firmly focused on December. We expect rates will remain roughly flat in the absence of exceptional global events."

Additionally, the 15-year fixed mortgage rate was 2.92 percent. For 5/1 ARMs, the rate was 2.74 percent.

Check Zillow Mortgages for mortgage rate trends and up-to-the-minute rates for your state, or use the mortgage calculator to calculate monthly payments at the current rates.

 Permalink | Email this | Comments


Sela Ward's California Home on Market for Almost $40 Million

2015-09-29 12:22:00

Filed under: Buying, Celebrity Homes, Selling

Courtesy of Hilton & Hyland via ZillowOne of the 13 baths on the property has soaring glass windows and doors that open to a furnished outdoor patio.

By Melissa Allison

Just two years out of "CSI: NY," Sela Ward has a hankering to live in the Big Apple -- and that means putting her 14,000-square-foot gated estate in the swanky Bel-Air neighborhood of Los Angeles on the market. For $39.995 million.

Evan Agostini/Invision/APSela Ward

Ward, who recently landed the role of the U.S. president in next year's "Independence Day: Resurgence," bought the sprawling mansion on eight acres in 2003 with her husband, Howard Sherman, so their children could spend more time in nature, she told the Wall Street Journal.

The couple revamped the seven-bedroom, 13-bath estate and intended to flip it, until Ward "greeted me at the door one day and said, 'Let's live here!'" Sherman told Traditional Home.

Gracious Southern and French style mix in the five-bedroom main home, where century-old heart pine floors complement reclaimed wood beams from Louisiana and Ward's native Mississippi, plus antique doors and limestone counters from France.

The home includes a 30-seat theater, a library enveloped in cypress wood, and a small greenhouse off the indoor kitchen that Ward calls "l'orangerie."

A wall of doors in the living room opens onto a terrace that overlooks a stream lined with rose bushes and Mexican lime trees.

The property encompasses an art studio and guesthouse as well as a vineyard, a covered footbridge and a 100-seat amphitheater.

Residents and guests have two choices for swimming: an infinity pool and a man-made pond with a sandy beach lit by tiki torches.

Listing agents are Branden Williams and Rayni Romito of Williams & Williams at Hilton & Hyland, an affiliate of Christie's International Real Estate, and Jade Mills of Coldwell Banker Previews International.

 Permalink | Email this | Comments


8 Costly Mistakes to Avoid When Building a New Home

2015-09-25 11:59:00

Filed under: Design, Home Improvement


By Geoff Williams

Even if you love where you live, if you own a home that you purchased from someone else, you've probably looked around your house before and wondered: "What was the builder thinking?"

But not everyone goes that route. Plenty of people pay to have their home custom-built. In other words, some homeowners are the builder -- or at least, they're the ones pulling the strings and making the hard decisions on how small or big their residence should be and what features it should have.

And if that's what you're doing, you don't want to look around your house someday and wonder: "What was the builder thinking?"

So if you're spending money on a custom home, keep these eight things in mind.

Have Details in Place Before You Start Building

That means not just knowing how the floor plan will look but knowing how the rooms will be designed, says Jonathan Macias, a real estate broker and the president of the Macias Realty Group in El Segundo, California.

"Designing a house seems easy, but the amount of choices out there can be overwhelming for many. What color tile, what size, what pattern, will it match with the walls, what cabinets will go with this, what about the faucet?" Macias says. "All of these questions could be just for one small bathroom."

In other words, you don't want to be agonizing about how a bathroom should look and holding up your contractors. Speaking of which ...

Hire the Right People

It should go without saying, but let Macias say it: "Do make sure you get all licensed contractors and professionals. Make sure they are properly insured and get references from past work."

Don't Build Too Big

Sure, you may have a lot of stuff and you might look longingly at mansions and want the same thing, but if that's the route you want to take, then think long and hard about what you're about to do. What may be right for you now may not be right for you in 10 years, or even next year.

"I meet potential clients in my office almost weekly who tell me, "We built a 6,000 square-foot home, but now we're dying to downsize to something smaller. Most families don't even need 5,000 square feet, and a home as small as 2,500 or 3,000 square feet won't feel small if it's designed properly, says Andy Stauffer, owner of Stauffer and Sons Construction, a homebuilder in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

"A larger house is just more expensive and harder to maintain and clean," Stauffer says. "According to the National Association of Home Builders, a custom home in the USA costs an average of $105 per square foot to build. That means by eliminating even 500 square feet in a home that you don't need, you'll save over $50,000."

Think About the Resale Value Now

Even if you never intend to sell your home and plan to pass it to descendants, assume that you might sell it someday, Stauffer says.

"It's simply a fact of life. Most of us don't know for sure where we'll be in 10 or 15 years, as much as we'd like to think we do," he says. "I recently spoke to a real estate agent who had some clients that built a five-story custom home. They loved it but when it was time to sell, they had to drop the price by tens of thousands of dollars and sell at a significant loss because nobody wanted to buy a five-story home and walk up and down the stairs all day long."

So build your dream home, but don't make it a nightmare for someone else, Stauffer advises: "Don't go crazy."

Keep Your Mortgage Within Reason

You can always add to your home later, creating the dream house when you can afford it, and build your realistic home now, suggests Joan Fradella, a family mediator in West Palm Beach, Florida.

When she built her home in 1998, she wanted to stick to keeping the mortgage balance low, and so Fradella was careful not to go, as Stauffer says, "crazy." She was going to have a luxury kitchen and bathrooms built into her home, but she didn't, settling for more modest layouts, reasoning that she could later.

"I also didn't get the crown molding and French doors because I knew we could do that ourselves," Fradella says. And, indeed, her mortgage remained reasonable.

Don't Sacrifice All of Your Amenities

Looking back, Fradella feels it might not have been a terrible idea to have included some of those "extras," provided her mortgage hadn't been too much higher. Because as it turned out, she says, "Life happens, your kid starts to play hockey; [goes] to private school, then college."

She still hasn't added any upgrades, and she's been living in her home for 18 years.

Yet, she stands by her advice. "You will be surprised how quickly a $200,000 home becomes $400,000 in upgrades," she says.

Preventing your house from becoming an economical abyss means knowing what upgrades are "must haves," says Brian Brunhofer, president of Meritus Custom Builders, a Chicago-area builder that specializes in custom homes. "For example, carpet can always be switched out to hardwood floors later, but a full basement is something you should decide on now," he says.

Brunhofer also points out that lending now is relatively inexpensive. As long as you don't go crazy, "it can be much more economic to stretch and plan for those features in your budget now," he says.

Of course, it's in every builder's best interest if you do include those upgrades now, since that's more money for the builder, but it doesn't mean Brunhofer isn't right.

Check In on the Work

Keep the surprises for holiday gifts and birthday presents. Don't get sucked into the idea that it would be fun to have someone drive you up to your new house, while blindfolded, so you can have a surprise unveiling (as you may have seen on home improvement reality TV shows). Because you might wind up stuck with a big mortgage on a house you're not thrilled with.

"Visit the site during construction," advises Nicole Cannon, a residential architect based in Los Angeles. "Make sure things are matching your expectations and ask questions if they don't. The worst option is to remain quiet and end up with something that you are unhappy with or have to pay to fix after the fact."

Don't Let Your Dream Home Cloud Your Reality

Let's end this on admittedly a bit of a downer -- to prevent you from having an unhappy ending when building your own home.

Cannon warns that having a house custom built can be an amazing experience, but it can also be a stressful time, and no matter what you might be thinking, "it will not solve all of life's challenges," she says. "I've had more than one client who thought that building a new home would bring their significant other closer, and a new home would solve their marriage problems. It's tragic when a home is completed and goes on the market immediately due to divorce."

 Permalink | Email this | Comments


Jessica Chastain's Greenwich Village Apartment For Rent

2015-09-23 11:35:00

Filed under: Renting
ZillowThe renovated apartment has two baths, including this master bath with its full-length soaking tub.

By Melissa Allison

Now that Jessica Chastain is settled into Leonard Bernstein's former duplex across from Carnegie Hall, the actress is renting out her old place in Greenwich Village.

For $11,500 a month, her tenant will enjoy a renovated and furnished two-bedroom, two-bath apartment with an extravagantly appointed master bath, including a full-length soaking tub fit for a Golden Globe winner.

The first floor boasts high ceilings, an open chef's kitchen with high-end appliances and a living room with a wood-burning fireplace.

Follow the wide, circular staircase to a skylit landing, a master bedroom with city views, a dressing area and a cedar walk-in closet.

It's "the perfect place to call home without needing to bring anything more than your toothbrush and favorite clothing," according to the listing by Chris Pomeroy of Halsted Property.

 Permalink | Email this | Comments


Fed's Decision to Delay Rate Hike Keeps Mortgage Rates Low

2015-09-23 10:31:00

Filed under: Buying, Financing, Refinancing
ZillowThe weekly mortgage rate chart illustrates the average 30-year fixed interest rate in six-hour intervals.

By Lauren Braun

Mortgage rates for 30-year fixed loans fell this week, with the rate borrowers were quoted on Zillow Mortgages at 3.73 percent Tuesday, down two basis points from last week.

The 30-year fixed mortgage rate fell to 3.67 percent on Friday before rising to Tuesday's rate.

"Mortgage rates fell last week to their lowest levels since early May after the Fed deferred its first rate hike yet again," said Erin Lantz, vice president of mortgages at Zillow. "We expect rates to be mostly stable this week now that the uncertainty about the Fed's decision has subsided."

Additionally, the 15-year fixed mortgage rate was 2.89 percent. For 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages, the rate was 2.71 percent.

Check Zillow Mortgages for mortgage rate trends and up-to-the-minute mortgage rates for your state, or use the mortgage calculator to calculate monthly payments at the current rates.

 Permalink | Email this | Comments

Contact Info
Campbell Burron BA, ABR, e-Cert

Senior Sales Associate


Tempe  Arizona 85282

480-786-4351 602-430-0432

Social Media

© 2015 Arizona Regional MLS®. All rights reserved.

Information Deemed Reliable, but Not Guaranteed. The property information being provided is for consumers’ personal, non-commercial use and may not be used for any purpose other than to identify prospective properties consumers may be interested in purchasing. The data relating to real estate for sale on this web site comes in part from the participating Brokers.

Last updated on Oct 13, 2015.